Our morning began with a delicious and extensive buffet at Tambo del Inka, before beginning our trip to Machu Picchu and boarding two coaches for a beautiful journey alongside the Urubamba River to the town of Ollantaytambo. Later in the week we will spend some time here, but for now we headed straight to the station. On the way, the last minute news of potential rain resulted in Richard purchasing 42 plastic ponchos in a variety of colours. Having distributed these, we boarded our Peru Rail train to Aguas Calientes, the gateway to Machu Picchu. Our Vistadome train was ideal for the journey, as the panoramic windows in the ceiling allowed stunning views of the mountains. On board we were served a snack and drink. On arrival in Aguas Calientes you can walk (climb) the 1,300 feet up to the citadel, or take a shuttle bus. Thankfully, Richard and Dawn had pre-booked us tickets for the bus, which winds its way up the side of the mountain.
Once at Machu Picchu we met our extra local guide and split into three small groups for a walk around the impressive citadel, situated between the two peaks of Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu. The route begins winding its way up the hill before opening out to spectacular views. From here you can also see the impressive agricultural terracing, which continues all the way down the hill and would have provided food for the whole city. The urban section contained the majority of housing, all built beautifully and still in good condition today, and we arrived next in the main square, before continuing to the Sacred Rock, which resembles the shape of the mountains behind it. This shrine would have been the site of special rituals and offerings to Pachamama, the Mother Earth. From here, our route took us through the Condor Temple and past the Temple of the Sun, where rituals, ceremonies and sacrifices would have taken place, although only the priest and Inca leader would have been allowed to witness this.
Leaving Machu Picchu we boarded the bus back down to Aguas Calientes, before enjoying some free time to look around the markets before heading back to the train station. We watched the sunset on our train journey and arrived back at Ollantaytambo to the exciting discovery that we only had one small bus, as the other had suffered a puncture. As a result Richard jumped into action and "purchased" a nearby replacement bus to avoid keeping clients waiting for the tyre repair! We arrived back at our hotel on schedule and enjoyed another delicious meal prepared by the Tambo del Inka restaurant.